Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Holiday Tips 1 – Earning Avios points and other airline miles from car rentals

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This article looks at how to earn Avios and other airline miles from car rentals.

The schools are nearly out, so  I thought it was a good time to update our ‘Holiday Tips’ series in preparation for the Summer season.   Future articles will look at earning miles from credit cards abroad, from foreign currency and when booking airport car parking.

For many of us, the only time in the whole year when we may find ourselves looking to hire a car is on holiday.

If you are spending your own money on car hire, you shouldn’t be blinded by the Avios or miles opportunities. There are plenty of low-cost consolidators like easyCar or Holiday Autos which are used by the big car rental groups to shift their spare capacity without having to publicly lower their prices.

However, if location is important (eg you want a supplier who is definitely in your airport rather than a long shuttle bus away) then you need to book direct. Direct booking also lets you book flexible rates, makes it easier to guarantee extras like baby seats and may even be cheaper, especially when factoring in the value of the miles or the cost of getting to an off-airport depot.

How to earn Avios from car rentals

Avis is the official partner of British Airways Executive Club, and even has its own website at carhire-ba.com. The rate is 3 Avios per £1 spent, with a minimum of 500.  If you rent for three days, the minimum goes up to 700 Avios.

BAEC members also get a free second driver, which can be a valuable benefit, and there are a further 250 Avios to be had if you pay with the British Airways American Express credit card. If you do four rentals in a year, you also get a further 750 Avios.

You can also earn Avios with Avis’s sister company, Budget.

At Budget, you earn 2 Avios per £1 with a minimum of 250.  All Budget locations worldwide are included.  Note that you do NOT get a free additional driver when renting with Budget as a BAEC member.  This benefit is only available with Avis rentals.

If you are renting in Italy, Iberia Plus lets you earn miles with Italian rental group Maggiore.  See this page of iberia.com for details and navigate to the Italian version of the site.

Other airmiles car rental options

Outside of Avios, pretty much every major airline has some sort of car rental tie-up.  It is worth doing a quick scout around before each rental to see if there are any generous promotions available.

Virgin partners with Avis, Alamo, Hertz, Enterprise, National and Sixt (see here) – the Hertz and Alamo deals are particularly attractive at 1,000 miles per rental, with Avis and Sixt offering 500 miles for short rentals.

Miles & More also has a large list of partners (see here) – Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Europcar, Hertz, National, Sixt and Thrifty.  There is a particularly attractive deal for bookings in July 2019 (collection can be later) which will earn you 5,000 miles for any car rental over €500 booked via Lufthansa’s portal.

You will find similar deals with any other airline scheme to which you belong.  British Airways is in a minority by having an exclusive car rental partner.

In all cases, be aware that you can usually separate out:

The discount code you are entitled to use as a member of that frequent flyer scheme, and

The miles you can earn as a member of that frequent flyer scheme

In theory, nothing stops you booking a car using (for eg) the Virgin Atlantic discount code for Avis and then crediting the stay to a BAEC account, should that prove to be the most attractive option.  The rules are often different for promotions when the discount code and airline party may need to match.

Don’t forget hotel chain promotions

It is not only the airlines that offer bonus points for booking a car via their partners. The hotel loyalty programmes have also got in on the act. In general the points earned aren’t worth as much as the equivalent airline miles, but do check.

Remember that crediting a rental to a hotel scheme may help delay the expiry of your hotel points.  This is especially useful for Accor as there are few other ways to avoid the ‘one stay per year’ rule.

Hilton Honors – Alamo, Enterprise, National

IHG Rewards Club – Avis

Le Club AccorHotels – Avis, Europcar, Hertz (excluding USA)

Marriott Bonvoy – Hertz, Sixt

Radisson Rewards – Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, National, Sixt, Europcar (from August 2019)

World of Hyatt – Avis

And don’t forget Hertz Gold Plus Rewards

Hertz also has its own reward programme, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, which I reviewed here. The key thing to note now, though, is that you can usually earn points in Hertz Gold Plus Rewards even if the corporate rate or discount code you are using is not eligible for airline miles.

Over the Summer, Hertz is running a major competition to win a share of 1 million Gold Plus Rewards pointsWe wrote about this on Saturday – click here.

Finally …. a word on car hire insurance

Car hire insurance is generally more expensive than the basic cost of the rental itself.  Separating the insurance from the rental can often lead to significant savings.

American Express Platinum comes with full car hire insurance coverage and, for a regular renter, is an attractive deal.  You do not need to pay for your car hire on your Amex card and there is no small print.  You can decline all insurance options safe in the knowledge that American Express will pay if necessary.

There are also various independent companies selling car hire insurance, of which insurance4carhire is probably the best known.  This is likely to be substantially cheaper.

One issue you can have, when you have arranged separate insurance, is getting your rental to price without any coverage.  The rental company websites often add coverage by default.  One possible way around this is to book from the US website of a major rental group – the US ‘norm’ is to show base prices with minimal coverage, which is exactly what you need in this scenario.

One word of warning.  If you do use Amex Platinum or a third party such as insurance4carhire.com, be prepared to be asked for a substantial credit card authorisation to be taken when you collect the car.  It is impossible for the rental company to verify your insurance cover, whatever paperwork you show them, so you may be asked for an authorisation (NOT a charge, just an authorisation) of a few thousand pounds on your card.

(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Comments (84)

  • Dawn says:

    I use worldwideinsure.com for my excess car insurance and find them excellent. I’ve only had one claim attempt – when returning a car in SA at Johannesburg the Avis man decided that we had damaged underneath the front bumper and they billed us accordingly. We started the insurance claim and we were asked for photos of before and after the repair had been done plus bills. We asked Avis for this and received a written apology saying they had made a mistake and their staff were being over zealous! As usual this was one of the attempts at getting some money for nothing. They dropped the claim and that was that.

    • ugraag says:

      I had a similar experience with one of the cheapo car hire companies in Alicante – I only needed a car for a few hours as it was a day trip, and paid teh princely sum of £2 for the honour. They then tried to charge £300 for some damage to the car door. I’d asked for photos to send onto insurance co via a number of different communication methods, which didnt appear – my post office (no fx) card agreed to a section 75 refund without any bother – other than filling out a form…

  • david says:

    Just to add extra tips. Take pics of car throughout before and after hiring. Hold onto these for at least a month on return. Id rented with cheapest of shysters and using external insurance noted, have only had to claim once.

    • Polly says:

      Yes, best advice, before and after pics and video, dated, of course.
      One time, a chap saw me doing a pre exit video, and came running over to stop me. I had already pointed out 2 damaged bits not noted on the form. They promptly came out and only then noted them. But, am sure l would have been charged for that damage on return.

  • StevieM says:

    N.B. Just got back from Italy on a BA hols including an Avis car hire.
    They have a ‘new’ insurance (I say new as I’ve never heard of it but the lady insisted it had been running for at least a couple of years) called Full Roadside Assistance.
    If you break down and you call roadside assistance, they will always attend with or without the insurance. If you don’t have the ‘Full’ and you need, say, a tyre changing or a tow, you will be charged hundreds of Euros.
    It costs roughly €4 + tax per day.
    Spoke to Amex (AXA Insurance) who say they are aware of this extra insurance but don’t cover breakdown only damage so advise to take it as you will be liable for any roadside assistance extras

    • Olly says:

      I am surprised tho hear about this roadside assistance cover not being on Amex. I’ve always thought from Rob’s and other’s comments previously on heart not to bother with ANY insurance they try and sell you as you’re completely covered. Is this another example of Amex pairing back whilst raising price?

      • Rob says:

        Roadside assistance has always been automatically included with any car I’ve hired.

    • Genghis says:

      only once happened to me in Okinawa but the rental co came with a replacement car within 30 mins. Possibility to claim back from rental co anyway if they don’t for supplying a vehicle not fit for purpose?

    • Doug M says:

      Most of my rentals are USA, but there the roadside assistance seems to separate out the required from the nice. If the car breaks down from mech failure they will assist you, it’s their car and their problem. If however you need to change a wheel, or lock the keys inside the car, that sort of thing, it’s on you unless you have roadside assistance. Be aware that tyres, glass and what is described as the undercarriage are treated like consumables, if they’re damaged it’s not included in the normal CDW/LDW insurance. The whole insurance thing is a nightmare of deliberate complexity so you sign up to their overpriced and largely unnecessary add-ons.

  • Olly says:

    Something I learned from Hertz, so i presume all do it, is that you’re not guaranteed points. I used Hertz at Reykjavik airport and Split airport Croatia recently and neither got me points. When I queried this with a call to customer services I was informed that a lot of franchises don’t partake so don’t get your hopes us.

    • Mummy55 says:

      Same in Palma Mallorca. Have hired there every month for years and never had any points.!

      • Shoestring says:

        IB points from Europcar UK have never posted for me, either

        Not really worth the effort of chasing

        • Also says:

          AA Miles did post for me from Europcar but only after 6 months and a couple of emails

    • Charlieface says:

      I mentioned this in my article: most franchises do not give points.
      Europcar to Accor and KLM never ever posts, try what I might, 6 emails to CS, nothing.

  • AJA says:

    When do the 250 bonus Avios for paying Avis rental on BA Alex card post? At time of payment for rental or after you complete the rental pf the vehicle?

    I booked and paid in advance for a rental for Sep 19 via the BAPP card and via the ba/avis link in BAEC account. I can see reservation in my Avis Preferred account but haven’t received 250 Avios bonus. I can also see the rental charge on my BAPP statement.

    • AJA says:

      Amex not Alex! I hate autocorrect on Android. 🙁

    • Matthew says:

      About 5-7 days after the rental has finished normally.

      • Matthew says:

        Sorry I assumed it was points for the rental not a BA Amex statement credit. They normally appear 5-7 days after your payment has hit your account. I’d not then phone but the terms will prob say 60days.

        • AJA says:

          Thanks Matthew. It’s approaching 60 days since charge hit my Amex. I assumed it would only credit once I had completed the rental. I will call the BA Exec Club today and enquire. I will report back what they tell me for the benefit of everyone here.

        • AJA says:

          Just spoken to BAEC and they confirmed the 250 bonus Avios, together with the 3 Avios per £1 for renting will post around 72 hours after the end of the rental.

          For information also if you book car hire separately from flights they also said that you can ignore the fact that the booking on BA.com does not show any Avios credit or frequent flier number. It is a quirk with the IT system as it is not linked to a flight but that the reservation will have that information in the background.

          I also clicked the link in the article to the car hire website and then clicked on the Avis partnership benefits and discovered that you can also earn a bonus 1000 Avios on your first rental if you join Avis Preferred. Avis Preferred is free and it means that you get priority service using Avis Preferred counters, No signature required, just show your driving licence to collect your car which is parked in the most convenient spaces.

          I joined it when I reserved the car for September so 1,250 bonus Avios heading my way in addition to the 3 per £1 spent 🙂 Price for the rental was OK too. Not the cheapest but convenience factor being in airport terminal worth it.

          I must also say the lady I spoke to (forgot to get her name!) at BAEC was lovely. Very helpful indeed.

          I did not get a ticket for tonight’s party but someone else who is going reads this message please can you let the BA people there know as I believe the Exec Club helpline deserve the recognition and praise.

          • Dawn says:

            I book many cars through BA after having booked flights and I put down my Avis Preferred number but it never shows up on the ‘voucher’. So then I always ring BA and they ‘add’ the number after a lot of fuss. But every time I get to Avis the preferred number has not been sent to them even though I go to the Preferred desk. They say that it’s because I’ve booked with BA and not Avis directly.

  • Colin JE says:

    Am I right in thinking Hertz also give points for IHG?
    I’ve had to reclaim points a number of times from Hertz but their website makes it (fairly) easy.

    • Rob says:

      My understand is that US members can still transfer Gold Plus Rewards points into IHG and other partners but UK members cannot.

      This is separate to the ability to earn hotel points by crediting a rental directly, instead of doing a Hertz points transfer.

      • Stu N says:

        I recently asked about transferring out Hertz points that are due to expire soon – someone suggested I might be able to move Hertz points via Hertz.com (US site) but that’s not giving me a “transfer out” option – I guess I’ll let them expire.

        • meta says:

          Same here. I have a little bit over 1000 points. I tried using them for a one-day rental, but whenever I tried, just got a message that I don’t have enough points (800 points is minimum). I also called, but the agent said the same. He looked across several months. I gave up and in the future will only credit to airline/hotels.

        • guesswho2000 says:

          Go to Hertz.com, login first (this is important) then manually change your region to EN/US, click your name, use my points, and Exchange appear.

    • Aston100 says:

      I booked a 4 day car rental with Hertz, going through a link on the IHG site.
      I was supposed to receive 1500 base points plus 500 points per day.
      Didn’t receive anything.
      Contacted IHG who said to contact Hertz.
      Contacted Hertz, filled in a form and I received the 1500 base points a couple of days later.
      I will need to contact them again about the additional 500 points per day (2000 missing points).

  • Ian says:

    I’ve only ever hired in this country and it’s always been with Avis together with a domestic BA flight. After all the horror stories of spurious damage claims and money being taken from credit cards by some companies (Europcar was often mentioned) I must say I was wary at first but I’ve never had a problem. Avis are a model of courtesy and efficiency, based on my experience. Loads of bonus Avios post quickly too.

    • marcw says:

      My experience has been,,, if booked directly through their website (or for instance, Avis through BA/IB,…) they are not that “picky”. Now if booked through a 3rd party site, then they will check the car 24 times to look for the smallest scratch.

      Otherwise I’ve booked at least 30 times a car in the last 3 years, and never ever had a problem.

    • Rob says:

      I once had an employee at Hertz Victoria threaten to report fake damage (more accurately, damage which was clearly old but was not on the original report) unless I gave him £50 cash on the spot.

      Unfortunately, as I had Amex Plat, I was perfectly happy to say no. Even more unfortunately for him, I got a Hertz customer service email the next day asking for my feedback, which I happily gave. I got a direct email a few days later saying that the person no longer worked for Hertz ….

      • Aston100 says:

        You should report the person who gave you confidential information pertaining to the dismissal of an employee.
        Perhaps you’ll get a new email telling you that the previous person has now been dismissed too.
        Carry on with this loop until no employees are left at Hertz.

        • NFH says:

          Nobody said that the employee had been dismissed, only that he no longer worked for Hertz. It might have been his last few days, which is why he behaved in the manner that he did. His departure might have prevented Hertz from questioning him about his behaviour, and Hertz could legitimately state this without breaching his privacy.

    • tony says:

      Thing is, it only takes one bad experience to ruin perceptions. I rented from Avis at SZG. Got to the car with the kids & bags to note two of the alloys had been badly scuffed. Called the desk & they assured me it had been noted.

      Returned the car and was the landed with an utterly disproportionate bill for the damage i’d reported. It was just over £1k as the EUR850 excess limit didn’t apply to wheels. You could buy a full set of alloys for that. Anyway, cue about six weeks of to and fro until I initiated a recharge with Amex. Matter was then resolved in 24hrs. So having used Avis extensively and been very happy, I now won’t touch them other than as a last resort.

      My last rental with Thrifty at GLA was brilliant. Brand new car for half the price being quoted by the majors.

      • Doug M says:

        Majors? Thrifty is owned by Hertz.

        • Polly says:

          I get the same experience at Dublin. Whizz is half the price of its owner europcar.

          • Doug M says:

            But it’s also about customer experience and marketing channels. The sadly departed GoodToGo parking was an example, I suspect it did enough damage to the regular LHR parking they dumped it. With Avis/Budget there is much discussion on whether Budget have the older cars, they typically are considerably cheaper than Avis, but I think that goes when they need a particular model quickly, definitely at some airport location the stock is to some degree interchangeable. But of course no Preferred, so no quick exit and bypassing the attempted up sell. I’ve had enough good/acceptable experiences with Avis and Hertz I tend to just stick with them.

  • Chrisasaurus says:

    One more ceveat: Amex plat cover EXCLUDES UK rentals for uk issued cards!

    • Alex says:

      You’re not the first person to mention that, but I had never heard of that limitation. I thought there was a minimum distance you had to drive or something like that.

    • NFH says:

      That’s not true. The policy states “Trip is extended to include any journey within Your Country of Residence for Car Rental Benefits (Section 1.5) only“.

      • Rob says:

        It always covered UK but there used to be a caveat that the trip had to involve a 2-night stay away from home. This was changed although I’m not sure what the exact wording now is.